Caesarean recovery

How to help your body recover after surgery

Photo: Yarinka/iStockphoto

You are recovering from major surgery, which means you need plenty of rest, but you’ve also got a new baby to care for. It’s a challenging time!

Your post- surgery body
Right after the surgery, gas that accumulates in the upper chest and shoulders may be quite painful. Avoid pop and very cold or spicy food, and try these simple exercises: Shuffle your legs, circle your ankles and do Kegels (tightening the vaginal muscles). Hold your breath for three to five seconds, then exhale slowly through pursed lips. Short, slow, frequent walks, though difficult at first, will do wonders. Over the next few weeks, gradually increase the amount of exercise you do, walking a little further and perhaps adding some pelvic tilts to your daily routine.

Your incision will be sore, itchy and sensitive. Use a pillow held against the area when you cough, sneeze or laugh. Make sure you or your partner looks at it every day, to watch for changes that don’t seem normal.

As the incision heals, expect itching and pulling sensations for six weeks or so, and sometimes long-lasting numbness. The scar will gradually fade from red to a paler line.

Just as with a vaginal birth, you will bleed from the site of the placenta. This blood is called lochia and will gradually fade by six weeks.

Comfort measures
Pain after surgery is a fact of life, and it is stressful to cope with. It will not harm your baby if you take a painkiller for a few days following a Caesarean. The relief from pain may help you stay mobile and will allow you to enjoy spending time with your baby.

Rest speeds healing, but with a new baby it can be challenging to get enough. Try to nap or at least rest while the baby is quiet or sleeping. While any new mom is wise to accept all offers of help, Caesarean mothers may need to go one step further and ask friends and relatives to do a load of laundry or run some errands.

When you’re breastfeeding, use a pillow to protect your incision. A nurse can show you how to place the baby in a “football hold” against the side of your body.

Call your doctor if:
• your incision becomes more painful, or has a discharge or odour
• vaginal bleeding becomes heavier, redder, or smells very unpleasant
• you experience a lot of pain when exercising
• you feel depressed every day and can’t seem to recover

Emotional recovery
A difficult birth that ends in a C-section can leave you with mixed emotions. You may be delighted about your baby, but disappointed by how the birth went. If so, try to find someone you can talk to. Many communities have Caesarean support groups. Your caregiver will know what is available.

Recovering from a Caesarean is an uncomfortable process and it doesn’t happen overnight. Right now, resting as much as possible and getting to know your baby should be your priorities. Don’t try to do too much all at once. Instead, pace yourself and accept all offers of help. Above all, remember that you have every reason to be proud of the strength you’ve shown through your baby’s birth.

Looking ahead
Even though this baby was born by Caesarean section, you have a good chance of delivering your next baby vaginally. When the time comes, you may want to find a vaginal birth after Caesarean (VBAC) support group, or VBAC prenatal class to help you prepare.